Partial schism in the Anglican Communion:
The Anglican Communion had successfully survived many stressors in its lifetime:
Almost all of the heads of the 38 Anglican Provinces (national churches) met during 2005-FEB. The primates, in effect, rejected the Windsor Report. For the first time in history, they "intervened in other provinces and requested that" 2 the Episcopal Church, USA and the Anglican Church of Canada withdraw from the Anglican Consultative Council until the next Lambeth Conference of 2008. This is the key body which facilitates contact among the 38 provinces. More details
Initial responses to the partial schism:
Actions taken by the Episcopal Church:
In mid-2005-MAR, the Bishops of the denomination held a six-day retreat near Houston, TX. They produced a Covenant Statement in which they announced two decisions:
On 2005-APR-13, the Executive Council announced that they will refrain from from officially participating in the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Nottingham which is scheduled for 2005-June. However, they will still send their delegation. Their statement said: "In the spirit of the Covenant Statement recently adopted by our House of Bishops, we voluntarily withdraw our members from official participation in the ACC as it meets in Nottingham. As an expression of our desire 'to bear one another's burdens' (Galatians 6:2) we are asking our members to be present at the meeting to listen to reports on the life and ministry we share across the Communion and to be available for conversation and consultation." This appears to be the same position as was taken by the Anglican Church of Canada.
2005-APR-05: Bishop Robinson attacked for views on Jesus:
Bishop Gene Robinson is the first openly-gay bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA. In a forum on FEB-13 at Christ Church in Hamilton MA, he commented that the nuclear family is a relatively new idea and that Jesus led a nontraditional life in Palestine. He is reported to have said:
He says that he has recently been "flooded with angry messages" from people who appear to have misinterpreted his statement; they apparently believe that Robinson was implying that Jesus was gay and/or that he was sexually active. Robinson said: "I can assure you with absolute certainty that was not my implication, and certainly not anything I ever said." 4
Bishops' meeting scheduled for 2005-JUL-18:
An ad-hoc committee of ten conservative and ten liberal Episcopal bishops will hold a five-day meeting in Los Angeles, CA. The hold conflicting views over allowing the ordination and continuing service of sexually active homosexuals. It is billed as a continuation of their Houston meeting in 2005-MAR. Their goal will be to attempt to reconcile their differences.
Our opinion: The bishops, Anglican laity, members and clergy from other religions and the rest of the North American population are deeply divided over the causes, nature, morality, and ethics of homosexual activity and homosexual orientation. Conservatives tend to approach the question using their religion's holy text and historical teachings as the basis for their beliefs. Liberals tend to approach the question from the standpoint of human sexuality research and human rights. These two paths lead to opposing conclusions. Our personal experiences in communication and attempts at dialogue on homosexuality leads us to believe that it is extremely doubtful that the bishops will be able to resolve their differences. Some faiths have been able to adopt a local option plan in which individuals have agreed to keep the denomination together, while disagreeing to disagree. They allow individual churches or geographical areas to either accept or reject ordination of sexually active homosexuals. This does not seem to be an option for the Episcopal Church. End of opinion.
The Washington Times reported a statement by retired Bishop Stephen Jecko of the Florida Diocese. He said that if the differences between liberals and conservatives are "irreconcilable" then the purpose of the meeting will switch to engineering a breakup of the Province without triggering lawsuits that could cost millions of dollars. He said: "It'll be who gets the money and who gets the kids. I hope it will be an amicable divorce....Those of us on the [theologically] orthodox side have no interest in going to court." Substantial assets would be involved in any split. The Times reports that the 7,220 parishes in the U.S. hold billions of dollars in assets.
However, this was contradicted by the meeting hosts: Bishop Jon Bruno and his Los Angeles diocese. Diocese spokesperson Janet Kawamoto said: "It's just a meeting among bishops of different ideologies who just want to get together and discuss things among themselves. Everything else is pretty much not public. They are working together, and they don't think it's necessary to publicize any of it."
Church rules require that a parish that leaves the Episcopal Church must abandon its property and assets. Several dioceses have launched lawsuits to challenge these canon laws. Three parishes in the Diocese of Los Angeles have lawsuits pending in Orange County Superior Court. Wicks Stephens, legal adviser for the Anglican Communion Network (ACN), said that additional lawsuits are planned. He said: "A strong team of clergy, laity and lawyers are seeking to prepare for the times ahead, if some sort of advance settlement is not worked out. I'd hope sanity would prevail as lawsuits are not the best way to resolve church conflicts." 2
2006-MAR-17: House of Bishops meeting:
The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, USA held their spring retreat starting on MAR-17 at the Kanuga Camp and Conference Center in North Carolina. It was a six day closed-door session. During one day, they spent time with theologians from other parts of the world. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold said, after the meeting:
The Rt. Rev. John L. Rabb, Bishop suffragan of Maryland, suggested that a pastoral letter be issued on a topic on which all of the bishops can agree: the sin of racism. The timing was certainly fitting, because the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination occurred on 2006-MAR-21 during their meeting.
The intent is that the letter be read to each Anglican congregation. It says in part:
It uses important words and phrases like:
However, when the letter refers to specific types of discrimination, they include race, gender, classism, and national origins. Discrimination based on sexual orientation became the 800 pound (360 kg) gorilla in the room: all the bishops were undoubtedly very much sensitized to its overwhelming presence, but it was ignored. Some Anglicans might find this quite offensive. Instead of being a unifying step, the letter may turn out to be divisive.
Bishop Griswold commented on the upcoming 75th General Convention:
2006-APR-04: Bishop of Arizona calls for civility:
The Rt. Rev. Kirk Stevan Smith, the Bishop of Arizona, was surprised when an internal communication, a weekly "E-pistle" received a very large circulation outside his diocese. In particular, he was shocked by "the vulgar language some outside his diocese used in responding." He wrote:
2006-MAY-06: Election of Rev. Canon Barry Beisner
Five priests were nominated to be bishop elect of Northern California. Two of them live in loving committed relationships with same-sex partners. One of the remaining three, Rev. Canon Barry Beisner, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Northern California was elected on the fourth ballot. He is married to a woman. Still, conservative members and groups in the Episcopal Church, USA, and overseas church leaders in the Anglican Communion have expressed concern about his election. They suggest that it would "render meaningless approval of [the Episcopal Church, US's] Resolution A161." 8
Resolution A161 states, in part:
They did not define precisely what the phrase "manner of life" means.
It is scheduled to be approved at the 2006-JUN General Convention. It falls far short of the request by the Anglican Communion for an apology which would include an admission that their behavior in confirming Bishop Robinson's election and in not absolutely forbidding the recognizing of same-sex unions was a sinful error.
Canon Beisner has been divorced twice and married three times. His first marriage was at the age of 19. He said that his wife abandoned him and their son. His second marriage lasted sixteen years. They had two children. He would not give the reasons for the marriage breakdown, other than to say: "What I can say is that I do know first hand, the death of a relationship. I know that divorce whenever or however it comes about is always a tragedy. It is a failure rooted in human sinfulness." In 1998, he married his third wife after having obtained permission from his bishop.
Overseas, within the "Global South" most provinces of the Anglican Communion regard remarriage after divorce as adultery -- no matter what the reason for the marriage breakdown was. Divorced clergy are dismissed. It is only in the Episcopal Church, USA, the Anglican Church of Canada and the Church in Wales that divorced and remarried clergy have been permitted as bishops.
Beisner said that the diocese has "experienced me as someone that they would like to have as pastor. I think I am certainly a better pastor, I know I was certainly a better parish pastor, for having lived through the death of a marriage."
Canon 22 of Title III requires that any election to bishop within 120 days of a General Convention must be confirmed by the House of Deputies and House of Bishops. Thus, these Houses must confirm his election at the General Convention in 2006-JUN. If approved, Canon Beisner will be the priest who was divorced twice and married three times to be consecrated as an Anglican bishop.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Copyright © 2005 & 2006 by Ontario Consultants on